WASHINGTON — Former defense secretary Robert Gates took his “Duty” book tour to “The Daily Show” on Wednesday night, speaking about his concerns over U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and the erosion of American military might. But he also fielded questions on one of the show’s recurring focal points: problems with veterans care.
In an extended clip of the interview available online, Gates blasted a culture of inefficiency at the Department of Veterans Affairs, calling it “the only bureaucracy in Washington that is even more intractable than the Department of Defense.”
He praised current VA Secretary Eric Shinseki but also said neither of them could figure out how to overcome interagency infighting, particularly when it came to sharing active-duty and veteran medical records.
“A big part of the problem is turf,” he said. “Secretary Shinseki and I got together on this a couple of times, and we thought we had a path … At the end of the day, Shinseki and I could not get the technical people to abandon their turf consciousness, their insistence on owning their own system and not combining the two.”
He also blamed Congress for much of the problem, saying lawmakers have micromanaged the department into disarray.
You can see more of the interview in the clip.